Dartmouth, King Arthur At Odds Over Cafe Menu
Laura Braunstein, right, of Lebanon, N.H., gets service from Amy Klevitch at King Arthur Flour Company Cafe in Dartmouth's Baker Berry Library in Hanover, N.H., on June 23, 2014. "This is the time to come because it's way less crowded than the school year," said Braunstein, a Baker Berry librarian. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Dartmouth sophomores Sonia Robiner, left, and Bean Crane study at the King Arthur Flour Company Cafe in Dartmouth's Baker Berry Library in Hanover, N.H., on June 23, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — A popular King Arthur Flour cafe in Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library is unlikely to renew its lease after the end of the year because of a disagreement with the college over the extent of its menu offerings, officials said this week.
Dartmouth will begin accepting new business proposals for the space in the coming weeks, but has no plans for its own dining services to take over the operation, college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said.
King Arthur Flour’s decision to leave campus came after college officials asked the Norwich-based retailer to limit its menu to coffee and pastries, according to King Arthur Flour Marketing Director Tom Payne. He said the cafe would no longer be financially viable if the company is forced to limit its menu. King Arthur Flour pays the college a commission for the right to occupy the space.
Previously, when it stopped offering sandwiches because of a lack of on-site storage space at the library, Payne said, there was an outcry from patrons.
“When the sandwiches were not there, it was not popular with the customers,” he said.
Dartmouth converted the former library reading room to a cafe three years ago with the idea of providing an “alcohol-free social space” open late at night. More recently, the cafe had been open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, and during the summer it will close at 2 p.m.
After opening in June 2011, King Arthur Flour took it upon itself to expand its menu selection to reflect the offerings of the cafe at its Norwich headquarters.
Novack Cafe — a college-run concession that also sells sandwiches — is located downstairs in the library. Lawrence said Dartmouth always had a limited menu in mind for the reading room site. She would not elaborate on why the college is insistent on having King Arthur pare back its menu, which has proven to be popular — lines during the school year routinely stretch out the door during the lunch hour.
Lawrence said there were no concerns over competition between the two cafes. Novack’s manager, Beth Rosenberger, declined to comment on the effect competition from King Arthur had on sales.
Earl Sweet, president of Service Employee International Union Local 560, said he was dismayed that the college was not considering using campus dining service workers to staff whatever comes after King Arthur Flour, which provided its own cafe staff.
The union had protested in 2011 when the college opened the space to a private contractor. Campus dining service workers, who are among Dartmouth’s hundreds of unionized employees, make about $14. At the time the King Arthur Flour cafe opened on campus, an employee told the Valley News the starting wage was $11.
Sweet said it seems unlikely that the competition upstairs wasn’t eating into revenues at Novack Cafe.
“If you’re purposely selling something of a lesser value downstairs and they’re selling something of a higher value upstairs, that’s going to hurt your business,” he said.
Meanwhile, some students who consider King Arthur Flour the higher-quality option said they treat Novack as a last resort.
“I eat their food when King Arthur Flour is closed and I’m stuck in the library,” Laura Sim, a rising Dartmouth junior, said. Sim visits the King Arthur Cafe every day to study over coffee.
Come December, she and other students will have to traipse over to Norwich to enjoy a brie and apple sandwich.
“I’m, like, really, really upset right now,” Sim said.